Best study hacks to get you through matric in 2020

An apple on a pile of books.

For most of us, 2020 has been nothing short of drama and uncertainty. With having to wear masks while out, keeping a 1.5metre social distance and not being able to see your family or school friends – our “new normal” has left many feeling overwhelmed and scared. 

However, the show must go on for the matric class of 2020 as learners enter the last stage of their school life and prepare for their final exams. While doing this during a pandemic must be a daunting experience, mental health and learning experts have some great advice and hacks to offer. 

“The good news is that no matter the chaos and uncertainty around you, you can still take charge of yourself,” says counselling psychologist, Lauren Martin. 

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There is no doubt that a healthy emotional well-being is important for positive functioning in life, including academic success. However, healthy emotional well-being does not mean we live a life free of experiencing discomforts or unpleasant emotions. 

“Rather, we learn that academic success can be achieved while experiencing challenging states and circumstances. So yes, the world has flipped upside down. But you can still take control of your future, and matrics can start right now to prepare themselves emotionally, physically and mentally to get through their exams.”

Create a study plan

Esmarie Cilliers, a registered counsellor in private practice with a special interest in developmental psychology and personal growth says: “Studying for success is not a question of luck or talent alone. Researchers agree that students who have a strategy or a plan for how they are going to study, achieve the best outcomes.

“Students who follow a plan and scientific study methods learn more easily, retain information for longer periods of time, and save themselves hours of study time which enables them to have more balance in their lives.”

Take care of yourself

According to Dr Diana De Sousa, Head of Teaching and Learning at the South African College of Applied Psychology (SACAP), matrics can embrace their growing independence and choose to view this incredibly challenging time as an opportunity to improve self-discipline, time management and study skills.

“It is our own inner attributes that help us to harness the motivation, will power, creativity and coping skills that will unlock the 2020 matric cohorts’ potential and empower them to succeed.” 

Daily nutrition

Mental toughness and emotional resilience do not stand on their own – you also have to take care of your physical needs. Having sufficient sleep, a supportive nutritional daily plan and being physically active every day – even when study pressures mount – is highly effective in the long haul of your study and exams.  

Nathalie Mat, a clinical dietitian with a special interest in child and adolescent nutrition, says how we eat directly affects our energy levels and concentration.

“Eating balanced meals and snacks with a variety of foods results in good blood sugar control. When our blood sugar control is smooth as silk, meaning no sugar highs followed by lows, we’re able to keep laser-like focus for longer.  

“Quick fixes like coffee and energy drinks may promise a mental boost, but they are not ideal sources of nutrition and do not fuel our brains. High caffeine intake can affect sleep, which further decreases concentration and learning. What we eat and drink impacts our ability to think clearly and concentrate for long periods of time. Fueling your brain well will help you excel.” 

Be active

According to biokineticist Joshua Marc De Hahn, our blood carries the nutrients, hormones and oxygen that supply our brain and body. With slow circulation and low blood volumes flowing through the body while we sit for extended periods, our brain and body do not function optimally. 

“Physical activity increases our heart rate, the volume of blood pumped around the body and the amount of oxygen we consume. This creates an environment where more blood is flowing to the brain, which in turn means more oxygen and more nutrients reach the brain.

“This results in a brain and body that can function at a much more optimal level.”

Join the SACAP Study Hacks Session for more on how to get through the matric exams with less stress. To register for this free Zoom webinar happening on Saturday, September 19 from 10am to 11am, use this link: